The federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 released today affirms the unrivaled contribution made by dairy foods, and reminds Americans that they will continue to benefit from three daily servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy. 

As expected, the Guidelines focused on overall eating patterns, and dairy was included in each of the three recommended patterns: the Mediterranean, the U.S.-Style and the Vegetarian-Style. The Guidelines also identified dairy as an underconsumed food group, noting that dairy foods provide a valuable source of three of the four nutrients of concern: potassium, vitamin D and calcium.

The dairy group includes milk, lactose-reduced milk, yogurt, frozen yogurt, dairy desserts and cheeses. Recommended intakes of dairy, including for those following a vegetarian eating pattern, are three daily servings for Americans nine and older, 2.5 servings for children ages four through eight and two servings for children ages two through three years old. The Mediterranean eating pattern calls for only two servings of dairy for adults.  

Only One in 10 Americans Reaches Dairy Consumption Target

“We are pleased that the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans acknowledges the important role that dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese and dairy desserts play in a healthy diet,” said Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs. “It’s startling to see that almost 90 percent of the population isn’t eating the recommended three servings of dairy daily. The dairy industry is in a good position to share the recommendations with consumers and to encourage healthy eating by including dairy products.”


Figure 2-1.
Dietary intakes compared to recommendations. Percent of the U.S. population ages 1 year and older who are below, at or above each dietary goal or limit.

Current intakes of dairy foods for most Americans “are far below recommendations of the Healthy U.S.-Style Pattern,” according to the Dietary Guidelines. (See Figure 2-1 above.) One of the many recommendations states that Americans should shift to consume more dairy products, particularly low-fat and fat-free varieties.

Added Sugars Should Fall Below 10 Percent of Total Calories

The Dietary Guidelines recommends that added sugars, defined as “syrups and other caloric sweeteners used as a sweetener in other food products,” be less than 10 percent of calories. Added sugars do not include the naturally occurring sugars in fruit or milk. The Dietary Guidelines indicates that “healthy eating patterns can accommodate other nutrient-dense foods with small amounts of added sugars, such as whole-grain breakfast cereals or fat-free yogurt” as long added sugar and total calories fall within recommended levels. Flavored milk wasn’t mentioned in the sections on added sugar or sugar-sweetened beverages.

Some dairy products were identified as sources of saturated fat or sodium, which the Guidelines also recommends limiting. Saturated fat is recommended to be less than 10 percent of calories. Full-fat dairy, butter and cheese are mentioned as sources of saturated fat.

A sodium limit of 2300 mg is recommended for the general population and 1500 mg for specific populations, such as those with high blood pressure. The Dietary Guidelines urges Americans to select low-fat or fat-free dairy options and those with little-to-no added sugar. The Guidelines also recommends that people shift intake away from cheese to milk and yogurt to reduce saturated fat and sodium, or choose lower-fat versions of cheese.

‘MyPlate, MyWins’

USDA also released today the updated consumer information related to MyPlate, called "MyPlate, MyWins." The icon still shows dairy as a separate circle off to the side of the main plate as in the original MyPlate, but the new tip sheet recommends that consumers "move to low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt."

The release today follows years of work from a panel of nutrition experts who made recommendations about the foods that Americans should eat. The recommendations were published in the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report in February 2015. Staff at the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture reviewed public comments and then developed the final Dietary Guidelines. The Guidelines will serve as the basis for government recommendations on diet and for the content of federal nutrition programs, such as the school meal programs.

IDFA staff will continue to review the Dietary Guidelines and assess the potential impact on dairy foods. Members with questions may contact Frye at or Michelle Matto, IDFA’s consultant on nutrition, at

Read the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 here.